I have wanted to perform these works by the modern composer Nico Muhly (b. 1981) for some time now. The O Antiphons have a special and specific role in preperation for Christmas. Seven songs for seven nights before Christmas Eve.
The Antiphons form the Latin acrostic ‘Ero cras’ meaning ‘Tomorrow I will be’, these antiphons invoke ancient prophecies about the coming of Christ: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia. Each text concerns itself with the presentation of Christ in a cultural context of prophecy and history.
The Meditations on the O Antiphons for solo organ by gay composer Nico Muhly (pictured above) are inspired by the seven Magnificat antiphons likely to have been written in the 6th century A.D. and reserved for vespers on the last seven days of Advent. Each Antiphon draws on an ancient and hopeful prophecy about the meaning of Christmas.
Nico Muhly has composed these Meditations in a minialist style with an emphasis on the raw elements of composition such as use of intervals and repititon of patterns. The were first performed during a Meditation for Christmas at Westminster Abbey on 19th December 2010.
Nico took the time to respond to a message I sent him about the performance. He said:
‘Advent is a time of anticipation, and about marking time in different ways; pointing towards Christmas, for me, wants to feel mysterious: we don’t know what’s coming, and we have no way to conceive of it apart from prophecies, rituals, and music which are simultaneously precise and abstract. I send you all my best wishes for an Advent filled with anticipation and mystery.’
Nico Muhly is a New York composer, student and colleague of the minimalist Phillip Glass. He is a prolific and popular composer and has been commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and written many sacred works, which have real meaning for him being person of faith.
Each Meditation incorporates some element of the original chants which reflect Pythagarian theories of musical power in composition, which uses a power-hirachy of intervals to communicate intention and feeling.
I have always thought the O Antiphons are at risk of being lost, endangered by our changing lifestyles and a lack of deep understanding of why these are of great cultural significance. These works are a great gift from Nico to helping us hold on to more fragile parts of our traditions.
The concert will take place on Wednesday, 22 December 2021 at 8.30 pm. Entry is by donation with proceeds used to support the music program at St Oswald’s.
For more details of O Antiphon Preludes or Christmas services at St. Oswald’s, go to www.stoswaldsgleniris.net.au or contact Daniel Brace at 0412806034 or Peter Johnson at email@example.com or 0417 548 896.